The Parker Town Council took a look at the proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-21 at their June 16 meeting, but first they had a look at a matter relating to the budget. They held their second public hearing on the “Home Rule” option. By state law, they needed to hold two public hearings on this matter before they can put it before the voters in November.
Following the public hearing, the council approved a resolution to place Home Rule on the November ballot.
As explained by Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer, this would allow the Town to spend the revenue it brings in as the Town Council sees fit, rather than having their expenditures limited by a state-mandated formula.
“This is not a tax,” Wedemeyer said. “We need to do this every four years so we can still go for grants.”
Wedemeyer said that, under home rule, the Town would only be able to spend the money that it had. With the state formula, however, they would not be able to spend above the spending limitation even if they had the revenue.
“The money would just sit in the bank,” she said.
“We might have the money, but we wouldn’t be able to spend it,” Mayor Dan Beaver said.
Wedemeyer provided figures on what their expenses would be limited to with the state formula. The state limits spending to the level for the 1979-80 fiscal year, with adjustments for inflation and population changes.
Under this formula, the Town’s expenses would be limited to $4.9 million from their own revenues for fiscal year 2020-21. They would be allowed $8.7 million in “exclusions,” which Wedemeyer said would be just federal grants. Total expenditures would be limited to $13.6 million.
Budgeted expenditures for recent fiscal years have been around $16 million and $17 million. Wedemeyer has stated that doesn’t mean the Town has that much money to spend. Annual budgets include provisions for grants and other funding the Town may receive in a fiscal year. If such funds aren’t in the budget, they won’t be able to accept or spend these funds.
Wedemeyer cited the example of the Town of Tusayan, Ariz., a small town located near the Grand Canyon in Coconino County. They incorporated in 2010. In 2018, town voters turned down the home rule option and the town had to dramatically cut services.
A spokesperson for Tusayan Town Manager Cynthia Sealhammer’s office told the Pioneer voters there approved a one-year override to provide for home rule in 2019 and a one-year extension in 2020.
As for the budget itself, Wedemeyer presented to the council a proposed budget for FY 2020-21 of almost $16.8 million, which is $1.5 million less than what the total budget was for FY 2019-20. The general fund was budgeted at $4.45 million, which is almost $600,000 less than the $5.1 million budgeted for FY 2019-20.
Wedemeyer said the Town could feel the budget squeeze from the coronavirus pandemic starting in July and August, and she had budgeted for this. She said there would be no pay increases included in the budget. She added their insurance costs would be going up by 11 percent.
Council Member Frank Savino thanked Wedemeyer for being what he called “fiscally responsible.” He added she spends a lot of working on the Town’s finances.
“Some towns have had to lay off employees,” Savino said. “They’re in panic mode. So far, we’ve managed to keep from doing that.”
The special funds part of the budget includes funds the Town has not received, but will need to include in the budget if they receive any grants or other funds that fit in their categories. These include $5 million in economic development grants and $1.5 million in impact fees for Parker South.
The biggest item among special fund revenue is $2.1 million in Highway User Revenue Funds from the state’s fuel tax.
Actual expenditures for the Town were $6.4 million in FY 2017-18 and $7 million in FY 2018-19, the last fiscal years for which totals are available. As for 10 months into the current fiscal year, FY 2019-20, total actual expenditures had been $5.7 million.
For the general fund, the biggest funding will be for the Police Department at $1.35 million. A total of $671,000 from the general fund has been budgeted for capital projects.
Wedemeyer also presented capital projects by what she described as “needs” and “wants.” She also listed possible grant possibilities for these projects. The biggest of the needs is $255,000 to remodel the building on Arizona Avenue to house the Parker Magistrate Court. The biggest of the wants are $326,000 to rebuild Arrowhead, Bronco and Chemehuevi Avenues and $224,200 for scrub seal from Fourth to Ninth Streets between California and Kofa Avenues.
The new fiscal year begins July 1. Once the council has given tentative approval to the budget, it must be published for three==weeks. Once it has been published, the council can formally adopt the budget and it will go into effect.